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MTA approves sweeping cuts to bus service

March 24, 2011 | 11:55 am

Mta The Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Thursday to make sweeping cuts to bus service as part of the largest overhaul of the system in more than a decade.

Plans call for nine routes to be eliminated in June and 11 scaled back. The cuts will equal a 12% reduction in overall bus service over recent years. The cuts will increase the number of passengers on individual buses.

Protesters outside Metro offices and inside the boardroom Thursday decried the cuts as an assault on those with low incomes and said people of color will be disproportionately affected by the reduction in services.

Some have criticized Metro in recent years for embarking on an ambitious plan to expand its rail service without putting forth larger efforts for its bus service.

But Metro officials and other government leaders have consistently defended the expansion of rail service.

The reductions come five years after a federal judge ended a decadelong consent decree that gave a court-appointed special master oversight of how the agency managed its bus service.

Metro officials say that during that period bus service increased and fares were reduced, but that they had to offer an artificially high level of service that can no longer be afforded.

Metro Chief Executive Art Leahy said there were “astonishingly low” ridership levels on buses headed into downtown each morning and that the system operated at 42% capacity.

Officials say the reductions are aimed at cutting costs and making the system more efficient, and Leahy said there are also plans to enhance service on more than 12 lines.

The cuts will drop Metro’s peak fleet to about 1,900 buses, or 400 fewer than it operated during the height of the decree.

In an interesting twist, the Federal Transit Administration recently announced it would review whether Metro had discriminated against minority and low-income transit riders, a move partly motivated by complaints from the Bus Riders Union, a local civil rights group.


Sex offender charged with trying to kidnap woman at MTA station

MTA proposes cuts to bus service

-- Ari Bloomekatz and Sam Allen

Photo: Metropolitan Transit Authority bus operator Cathy Jones inspects her vehicle before starting a route in 2000. Credit: Kim D. Johnson / Associated Press